Watermelon Pickles

Watermelon pickles are something I’ve wanted to make for a long time. I’ve heard people talk about them, and I always figured there had to be something I could do with the rinds leftover from my watermelons. Watermelon pickles are just like regular ole cucumber pickles. They’re good and crunchy. This particular recipe makes watermelon pickles that are sweet at the start and spicy at the end. You could eat them right out of the jar or even put them on hot dogs or hamburgers for something totally different.
I’m contemplating chopping a few of these watermelon pickles and making a relish. I think it’d come out delicious. The flavor balance is perfect, not overly sweet or spicy. The pickling spice is strong, which I like, but if you’re not such a fan of the cloves in it you might want to use slightly less or remove some of them before adding to the brine.

Watermelon Pickles
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Serves: 2 pints
 
Ingredients
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
  • 4 cups of watermelon rind, peeled, chopped into 1/2"-3/4" cubes
  • 1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • Red pepper flake, to taste (optional)
Instructions
  1. Blanch the watermelon rind by bringing 4 cups of water and 3 tablespoons of salt to a boil in a pot over high heat. Stir until the salt dissolves.
  2. Add the watermelon rind. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue simmering until just starting to turn tender (you want them to still be a bit crispy), about 5 minutes.
  3. Skim off any fat and drain. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Make the brine by bringing the remaining 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon salt, vinegar, sugar, pickling spice, and red pepper (if using) to a boil in saucepan. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Pour the brine over the watermelon rind.
  6. Cover with a plate to keep the rind submerged and let cool to room temperature.
  7. Transfer to glass jars, cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.
  8. The pickles will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.
  9. Combine and store: Pour the hot brine over the rind. Use a small plate or a Ziplock bag partially filled with water (I use the Ziplock bag) to hold the rind under the brine. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer the rind and brine into clean glass jars (I use Mason jars), cover and chill before serving. Keep refrigerated - they'll keep several months.

Quick Fix Spicy Pickles

These quick fix spicy pickles absolutely hit the spot. I love dill pickles, and I love a little spiciness so it was easy to love these pickles. They aren’t overly sweet and they aren’t overly spicy, though you can certainly make them spicier (or less) if you want. I found them to be just right, and perfect for sharing with the neighbors without having worry that they’d be too hot for them.

Whatever you do, do not discard the brine from the jarred pickles. Save it for making Nashville hot chicken or for use as a brine for chicken wings. I always save my pickle juice. I also cut off the ends of the pickles. Since that left me with a bowl of pickle pieces, I decided to make a quick and easy pickle relish.

Quick Fix Spicy Pickles
Author: 
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
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Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 (46 ounce) jars whole dill pickles (not Kosher)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons (or more) dried red pepper flake
Instructions
  1. Drain the juice from the pickles, reserving it for other uses (as a brine for Nashville hot chicken or wings!).
  2. Slice the pickles into 3/8" pieces and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir.
  4. Let the pickles set on the counter top for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  5. Store pickles along with the accumulated sauce in jars for 3 days before consuming.

Easy Marinated Mushrooms

These easy marinated mushrooms are some of the most addicting little bites I’ve ever made. Easy is right, too. They take no time at all to make. They are packed with flavor, a little sweet, a little heat and a bit of vinegar kick. I can guarantee that you will want to at least double the recipe because you won’t be able to stop eating them.
I used a mix of white button and cremini mushrooms, but you can use any mix of mushrooms you like. You do want to make sure you use mushrooms that are all about the same size or some will cook faster than others. You want them to all be cooked the same, not some soft and some not.

The marinade for these easy mushrooms is very good. I plan on using it for other dishes, including as a marinade for chicken.

Easy Marinated Mushrooms
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 pound
 
Ingredients
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Add the mushrooms and cook until just tender, 3-4 minutes. Drain well.
  3. Transfer mushrooms to a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley. Toss gently to combine.
  4. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for 8 hours.
  5. Serve garnished with fresh chopped parsley.
  6. Note: The mushrooms will keep up to 5 days but are best the first two days after they marinate.

Turtle Graham Bars

When people that have sworn off sweets and treats come back for thirds and fourths, you know you have a winner sweet snack on your hands. Anita and I made a big ole batch of turtle Graham bars for her co-workers. They disappeared in no time. And I can understand why because I was having serious control issues around them. Lightly bitter dark chocolate flavor (a favorite of mine), crunchy pecans and creamy buttery brown sugar, all over tasty Graham crackers. The sea salt topping is the crowning touch. Every bite is fantastic.
Be careful with the butter and brown sugar mixture when it comes time to pour it over the crackers. It’s hot sticky stuff that can burn if you splatter it onto yourself. Also, you want the bars to sit in the fridge long enough for the chocolate to set up really well so that they can be broken up easily.

Turtle Graham Bars
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (14.4-ounce) box Graham crackers
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for topping
  • 1 (10 ounce) bag dark chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Cover with a single layer of Graham crackers.
  3. Put butter, brown sugar, pecans and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Pour butter mixture over crackers. Bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Melt chocolate per manufacturer's instructions in a microwave or in a double boiler. Pour over crackers, then sprinkle with more salt.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, cut or break into bars, and serve.

BBQ Deviled Eggs

I’m always on the lookout for recipes that call for leftover pulled pork. I smoke a lot of pork, always making more than I need because I love it on more than just sandwiches. And boy oh boy, these BBQ deviled eggs are ‘da bomb’. They aren’t just hard boiled eggs topped with BBQ sauce-laden pork. Oh no. They bring it with a little vinegar kick, a little smoke and a little heat. Each bite is truly fantastic.
You can make this recipe using any leftover smoked meat, be it pork, chicken or beef. Make sure you chop or shred it small. You don’t want the meat to drown out the other flavors.

Normally I would pipe the mixture onto the tops of the boiled eggs but this mixture was a bit too thick to do that so I just spooned it on top. No harm in that. People aren’t going to spend a lot of time looking at these BBQ deviled eggs. They won’t last long enough for long stares.

BBQ Deviled Eggs
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12 halves
 
Ingredients
  • 6 large eggs, hard boiled
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 drops liquid smoke
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded or finely chopped cooked pulled pork, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
  • Dill pickles, chopped
  • Smoked paprika, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Peel the eggs and cut in half.
  2. Remove the egg yolks to a bowl along with the mayonnaise, oil, hot sauce, vinegar, liquid smoke, salt and pepper.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the egg halves. Alternatively you can pipe the mixture onto the eggs, but you might need to add a bit more mayo and or oil to thin it enough to do so.
  4. Combine the pork and BBQ sauce and spoon over the tops of the eggs.
  5. Sprinkle a few chopped dill pickle pieces over each egg.
  6. Dust the eggs liberally with smoked paprika and serve.

Jalapeno Popper Deviled Eggs

Oh yes! Finally three of my favorite things in a single bite. The kick of jalapeno poppers. The creamy richness of deviled eggs. Crunchy smoky bacon. Easy to make, easy to eat and dangerously addicting. These aren’t your grandma’s deviled eggs (which are good, but hey, they need some spice!).
I could eat these all day long. In fact I’m making them again for this year’s Easter get-together. Several will disappear before they get to my sister-in-laws house so I will have to make plenty of extra. I will put up a little sign letting people know that they are spicy just in case. I don’t want to start a big family ruckus over someone accidentally eating these jalapeno popper deviled eggs and blaming me for not telling them that they have a little kick to them!

Jalapeno Popper Deviled Eggs
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 6 slices thin bacon, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded, chopped, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 10 hard boiled eggs
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • Pinch of Kosher salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook the bacon in a medium skillet until crunchy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
  2. Drain all but 1/2 tablespoon of the grease.
  3. Add one of the chopped jalapenos and the garlic. Saute until just starting to soften. Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.
  4. Cut eggs in half and scoop the yolks into a medium bowl.
  5. Add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Dijon, vinegar, salt and cayenne. Mash together to combine. Add more mayonnaise if the mixture is too thick or dry.
  6. Stir in the half of the bacon and the sauteed jalapeno and garlic.
  7. Spoon or pipe the yolk mixture into the eggs.
  8. Garnish with the remaining bacon and the remaining chopped jalapeno and serve.

Cheese Straws

My first attempt at making these cheese straws was a learning experience. If the dough mixture is too thick it’s a nightmare to get through a cookie press. If the dough mixture is too thin the straw will flatten out as they bake and you’ll end up with a pan full of sadness. But, I did finally get it just right and oh, man, are these cheese straws more than just a little addicting! Crunchy and packed with cheese flavor you can’t eat just one handful.

I dusted the baked cheese straws with cayenne and smoked paprika, but you could try other flavors too. Italian seasoning for example, for a more savory approach. Or perhaps a little Ranch dressing mix.

I think you could also try other cheeses, specially something like a Monterey Jack or Swiss.

Cheese Straws
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16-20 sticks
 
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter plus 1-3 more tablespoons, softened
  • 2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F.
  2. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Place 1/2 cup of the butter in a mixer with the paddle attached.
  4. Add 1 cup of the cheese and mix for 5-7 minutes until smooth, scraping down the sides as it goes.
  5. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cayenne, smoked paprika, black pepper and garlic powder.
  6. With the mixer still running, slowly add the flour mixture.
  7. Add the remaining cheese.
  8. Test the consistency of the batter. If it is really thick it might not go thru your cookie press or dessert decorator. If it is too thick, add another tablespoon of the softened butter and mix. Continue until just thin enough to press but not thin and runny.
  9. Spoon mixture into your cookie press with a large star tip on the end.
  10. Pipe out onto the parchment paper.
  11. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Remove from oven and dust with cayenne and smoked paprika, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Baked Seasoned Ritz Crackers

I like making little treats for Anita to take to work and share with her co-workers. This time I decided to skip the sweets and send along some great savory baked seasoned Ritz crackers. Nothing fancy, but wonderfully tasty. Great on their own or with a creamy smooth dip or even better, slathered with goat’s cheese!
You could substitute something other than Ritz crackers for this snack, but I’d lean towards something buttery if you do. You want to keep that savory creamy theme going. And make sure you keep an eye on them as they bake. They can quickly turn from golden brown to … very very golden brown!

Baked Seasoned Ritz Crackers
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 box Ritz crackers
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F.
  2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Place the crackers into a large bowl.
  4. In a small saucepan melt the butter. Whisk in the remaining ingredients.
  5. Drizzle the butter mixture over the crackers, Toss gently to coat.
  6. Transfer the crackers to the baking sheets. Spread them out so they bake evenly.
  7. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Remove and let cool before serving.